We take a look at the best, most adorable and most scary intelligence exhibited my machines or software in the movies

Spike Jonze’s new movie HER is released in Irish cinemas this week, and tells the story of what happens when Theo (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a super intelligent operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Johansson is so great in the role, and so convincingly ‘human’ that we decided to take a look back at some other great examples of AI on the big screen…

HAL 9000 – 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

HAL 9000, or just Hal, is the computer aboard the Discovery One spacecraft bound for Jupiter in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Although Hal says early on that he enjoys working with humans, when things start to go wrong with the mission, the computer blames it on ‘human error’ and, when it seems the crew of the ship turns against him, Hal takes defensive action.
Although he turns out to be the main threat to the crew of the Discovery One, Hal is actually the embodiment of rational thought, and it is his seemingly flawless reasoning that makes him so frightening. Hal does not flinch at eradicating humans to save his own life, and has become the personification of our main fears about the rise of the machines.


What would an examination of AI in the movies be without a reference to the film A.I.? Forget the teddy bear or Haley Joel Osment’s creepy robot child, Gigolo Joe is truly the film’s best artificially intelligent character.
Brilliantly played by Jude Law, Joe is a male prostitute robot programmed with the ability to mimic love. Joe moves beyond his programming for sexual love, however, when he meets a young boy robot in search of his humanity. Joe suffers a tragic fate after being framed for murder.

Gerty – MOON

There is little doubt that Gerty, the friendly robot companion to Sam (Sam Rockwell) in MOON, is one of the many movie characters inspired by HAL 9000. Gerty obviously knows much more than his human companion and this is where the tension is built through the movie. Much of the film is spent waiting for Gerty to turn on Sam, but there is nothing to imply that he will do, other than the fears created by watching 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, fears that director Duncan Jones deliberately plays on.
Wonderfully voiced by Kevin Spacey, Gerty is the perfect example of a cinematic bait and switch, whose presence is designed to distract the audience from the obvious question.

Skynet – The TERMINATOR Franchise

On April 19th 2011, the SKYNET system went online. Built by Cyberdyne Systems, SKYNET was designed to remove the possibility of human error in the US military defence systems. The trouble is that within a split second of going online, SKYNET decided the biggest threat was humans, and our fate should be extinction.
SKYNET is the system that set all of the events in the TERMINATOR franchise in motion, by sending The Terminator back in time to destroy John Connor before he was even born. Although the humans fight on, SKYNET endures and is a definite cinematic warning to us all about giving in to the temptation to play god. SKYNET is Hal with the internet and as such, is totally terrifying.

Wall-E – WALL-E

Not all artificial intelligence is terrifying; in fact, some of it is determined to help humanity, no matter how much we resist. This is brought to life in Disney Pixar’s adorable little robot, Wall-E.
Originally designed to clear up the rubbish being created y the human race, Wall-E continues with it’s mission long after humanity has left Earth in search of pastures new. Wall-E is a persistent little creation who longs for the company of another being; with his will to struggle on no matter what the odds, and his love for musical movies, Wall-E doesn’t need to talk to win us over.
Bonus points to the WALL-E team for making Auto – the computer and pilot of the Axiom ship in the film – such a terrifying homage to HAL 9000.

Although they seem hell bent on destroying humanity – with a few notable exceptions – we seem fascinated by the concept of AI in the movies. Which artificially sentient being is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

Words: Brogen Hayes